Crushing report on Moray charity leaves questions to be answered

OSCR - Regulator issued crushing report on Moray charity
OSCR – Regulator issued crushing report on Moray charity

CONCERNS OVER weak policies and governance practices, poor accountability and lack of any public benefit being provided led to a Moray charity being struck off the register by the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR).

This week insideMoray exclusively revealed that concerns were growing over the future of The Green Home in Buckie – the public face of the Moray Recycling Action Group (MRAG) which was first accorded charitable status in January 2005.

MRAG’s original intentions were aimed at the relief of poverty, hardship or distress of people resident in Moray who were unable to afford the basic needs in furnishing and supplying a home.

The charity also said that they existed to advance education and training, particularly among the unemployed, through the provision of training and work experience.

Led by local businessman Heath Gardner, MRAG attracted grant funding in the region of £150,000 primarily from Moray Council and HIE.  It was an apparent success, meeting initial aims and objectives including providing full-time employment for around nine people.

However, alarm bells started ringing in July 2014 when the OSCR noted from accounts submitted by MRAG that they had failed to comply with recommendation made after an earlier inquiry.

These centred around there being sufficient trustees to form a quorum and a failure to review the charity’s constitution as it “no longer reflected the activities being carried out”.

OSCR noted that two trustees resigned in October 2014 and while three were appointed they, too, resigned in July last year without ever having met as a Trustee body.

MRAG is listed as a member of tsiMoray and although efforts were made the third sector body to assist MRAG in appointing new Trustees, those identified were unwilling to serve “due to concerns about inadequate financial and management policies” and “exposure to risks of personal liability”.

A meeting held between OSCR and Heath Gardner plus a visit to MRAG’s premises failed to convince the regulator that the business was fulfilling its charitable purpose, with MRAG selling goods to all members of the public and customers paying the same price regardless of their personal financial circumstances.

OSCR also found there to be “significant private benefit” being taken from MRAG through high wages and unauthorised use of vehicles and charity property by Mr Gardner and his wife, who is the only other Trustee of the charity.

MRAG was given 21 days notice that they would be removed from the OSCR Register from April 27.

Further attempts were made by insideMoray to contact the company on their main telephone number on Tuesday were without success.